Diary (archives) - Claude Lavoie Photo

Photographic chit-chat

Photographic chit-chat (image unavailable)

Thursday 2012-06-21 :

An unexpected visitor, this morning : while I was sipping a coffee on a terrace, amid the skyscrapers of the business district, a firefly landed on the lip of my cup.

In our region, it is abundant throughout the whole summer, easily recognisable at its short wings and its clumsy flight, the body in vertical position, as though weighed down by its heavy behind. Discreet, it goes unnoticed, except during the mating season, around the summer solstice when, so as to signal its presence and lure potential lovers, its abdomen lights up like a small lantern (is this what "to burn with love" refers to?). What a sight, in the forest, after dusk : it is as though the stars had come down from the sky to dance, among the dark lines of the tree trunks, a choreography of small luminous dots.

But still : the insect belongs to the forest, not to the steel towers and the hot pavement of downtown! I wonder how it feels here? Completely lost or comfortably at home?

Friday 2012-05-04 :

I keep thinking about a theme for a portfolio : Ladies just out of bed. Zesty pictures, just as energetic as someone feels when jumping out of bed on a vacation day, after a good night of sleep, with all the time in the world to lounge about.

The theme, evoking the comfort and privacy of home, lends itself to the exploration of contrasts. Hair for instance : it could rebel, undone and ruffled, pressed flat on the head by the pillow or, ever proud and conscious of its looks, work itself into shape on rolls and pins; then the clothes : the whole gamut from the homey and comfortable bear-like terrycloth, through the uninspiring flannel nightdress, all the way to the vaporous, breathtakingly revealing, translucent negligée; not to mention shoes : from the near spherical fleece-lined sensible mule to the aristocratic spike-heeled slipper that emphasises the thinness of the ankle and uncovers the tip of the toes; and of course make-up : from non existent to elaborate. With all the possible moods of morning between sulkiness and cheerfulness. An infinite number of variations to choose from.

The session would take place in a black-box studio, so that attention shall be directed on the model, and would last for a full day, with models coming in succession. And, as befits all inspired creative work, it would entail much improvisation and uncontrollable fits of laughter.

A glimpse of the feminine half of mankind, candidly partaking in the glory of the morning, a mug of hot coffee in one hand, a Danish pastry in the other.

Sunday 2012-04-01 :

This is the last day of a week of vacation; work resumes tomorrow. If I were to summarise it, I would write : "A little of everything, much of nothing".

I originally planned to do work around the house that, because of lack of time, I have been putting off for years; I also intended to spend several hours in the darkroom. But I had to put the odd hour, here and there, on job-related work; and I slept late, on a few mornings, then sat idle at the kitchen table for long periods of time, before a cup of coffee, chin in hand, blissfully looking out the window. How pleasurable the moments spent there!

Today, I felt some guilt from accomplishing so little and from enjoying sloth so much. I then remembered a line read long ago in Pierre Foglia's column : "Time saved makes progress; time wasted makes civilisations". I said it twice in a low voice, just for myself, and immediately felt at peace.

And I decided to take a week of vacation, at the same time next year, to do exactly the same thing.

Sunday 2012-03-11 :

Sitting in the stairs leading to the entrance of the dance studio, I look out the window, after a six-hour photo shoot : the first model did not show up, did not call to cancel, did not answer the calls I made when I realised she was late. Luckily, the other two models were generous with their time and enthusiasm.

After a shoot, I am often dissatisfied. Out of weariness, I suppose : patiently striving for hours to make the ideal images you harbour into your head materialise and remain ideal brings about fatigue, if not plain doubt. And I am anxious too : a vague fear that something might have gone wrong, that a technical glitch might have rendered the rolls of exposed film useless, that all the work and time expended might be a mere waste. This is how I feel at this very moment. But the years have taught me that these misgivings will give way to relief and elation in a few days, when I finally get to examine the rolls of film just out of the developing tanks.

Today, my sadness has a different cause : when I arrived with all the gear, this morning, Guylaine was tidying up the place, as she does every Sunday morning. We rarely meet; we communicate through email for the reservations and upon leaving, I slip an envelope containing the payment under a piece of furniture, a hiding place we agreed upon long ago. She announced that the dance studio would close this coming June. The rent is going up too steeply; she cannot keep up any longer and will therefore not renew the lease.

I have been shooting in her studio for more than a decade. It is an ideal place : it is always clean and orderly; its all black interior, although austere, makes the model stand out; all is silence, on Sunday mornings, when no one else is in the building; it is overheated in the winter, a definite advantage for nude photography; and it is affordable. In a word, a cosy place that both the models and the photographer feel comfortable in.

In the early years, I used to rent the place one night per week. It was a hectic cycle : recruit models; set up the backdrops, strobes, stands, props and what not before the session; shoot for three hours; take down all the material and store everything back into the big locking coffer that permanently remains on the premises; process the rolls of exposed film; print two sets of contact sheets (one for the model, one for me); print two pictures chosen by the model; file the negatives and prints . . . just in time to recruit an other model for the next session.

It was very demanding, but I learnt a lot and amassed a sizeable body of work. After a couple of frantic years, I slowed down to one shoot per month, on a Sunday morning. I have kept this comfortable pace since.

Over the years, I sometimes felt I was repeating myself and wondered whether I had exhausted all the possibilities of the place. But these bouts of doubt were short-lived; renewed interest would soon return, along with a certainty that the location still offered opportunities for further learning. But today, the decision is no longer mine : I will have to continue elsewhere.

I like shooting outdoors in the summer for the quality of light (nothing beats natural daylight), the variety of available settings (from public spaces to abandoned industrial buildings), the bustling vitality of the city. But one has to shoot indoors during the winter; and good photo studios are few and costly.

I yet do not know what will happen; for the time being, I just stomach the news. But I am confident : I will bounce back. Change is unsettling, at first, before it becomes good. Necessity will push me forward towards new opportunities and, ultimately, exciting discoveries.

Tuesday 2012-02-14 :

Despite -12 Celsius and more than a metre of snow on the ground, the sun is shining. The sparkling snow stands out on the blue background of the cloudless sky.

The dead of winter one might say; it would be wrong. Even though nothing has changed for weeks, the dead of winter is behind already; the days are getting longer and the sun brighter. Winter is dying; the triumph of heat is near. All the signs are here : it will soon be Spring.

The red cardinals know it. Overexcited and oblivious of the cold, they perch at the first light of dawn on the highest branches of the bare trees, where the first rays of the sun will set their plumage ablaze. Indefatigable, they will sing their heart out for weeks, from dawn to dusk, as much to announce to the other males the extent of the territory they intend to reign on, as to invite the more discreet females to be their companion for the coming summer.

Scarlet with love, they are everywhere to be seen and heard this morning; for them as for us humans, today is a special day, a day for celebrating love : it is Valentine's Day.

Sunday 2012-01-22 :

I dream of a long photo shoot with a patient model, in an empty and silent mansion with large windows through which the soft and complicit light of autumn would pour in.

Only the bare essentials : a few pieces of furniture for the model to lean or, should she so feel inspired, lie on; one or two sheets of white cardboard to be used as reflectors.

A fluid session, punctuated by the sole clicking of the shutter, with poses flowing in an even and spontaneous stream.

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